The Democratic Panic Show
Democrats Need To Chill Out And Stop Listening To Republican Blather

You know what’s sad?

In the wake of the GOP victories just a week and four days ago, Republicans are now crowing about how their brand of conservatism has became “mainstream” and how they, with their 3.5 million/51% majority and Congressional gains to boot, have a “mandate” – not an unattractive idea for victors. To add insult to injury, they are now bragging about how the “Democrat Party” is dead, “moral values” (read: gay-bashing) supreme and Massachusetts a French enclave. Worst of all, the oh-so-wise Republican sages pontificate that “if Democrats want to win again” they have to nominate some Democrat-yearning-to-be-a-Republican like Senators Evan Bayh (Ind.), John Breaux (La.) or Joseph Lieberman (Conn.).

You know what’s even sadder?

The Democrats seem to be falling for it.

I’m sure kicking the opponent while he’s down is a classic technique that’s not just reserved for fistfights, and that Democrats probably engaged in it in the past. Although I cared not a whit for politics at the time, my guess is that there were plenty of “why are the Republicans such losers?” analyses among Democratic blowhards in the wake of the 1996 elections, when President Clinton, considered to be the son of Satan himself among diehard conservatives, was reelected by an eight-point margin in the popular vote, with the so-called Gingrich Revolution in tatters. That doesn’t make it right, and I condemn all such behavior, past, present and future, in all political parties. A political victory should be a moment of celebration and plans for the future, not a crass opportunity to try to be condescending to the other side.

While I could theoretically dedicate my entire column to that singular point, that would be counterproductive. No one pays me to be fair to the Republicans. Granted, no one pays me to be unfair to them, either, but I do admit deriving an immense personal satisfaction from fair yet harsh attacks on them. And now is the time not for me to try to “reach across the aisle” either in Left Turn or through some other guise, but to rally my fellow Democrats and throw some sand into the arrogant Republicans’ eyes.

I exhort my fellow Democrats to do the following: IGNORE just about every bit of analysis or advice that right-wing Republican motherfuckers serve up. Okay, occasionally some benevolent Republican may actually offer something that’s useful for us, but please use your best judgement so you don’t swallow the bucket loads of shit along with the one or two gems. I will now provide a list of some things I’ve heard from Republicans in a variety of outlets and venues say, that you should hear/read, think about, and then flush down the toilet along with the rest of the day’s anal products.

BULLSHIT #1: The Bush/Congressional victory is a solid mandate for a conservative direction in federal government. Let’s get something straight here: Bush’s “mandate” was 3.5 million voters out of approximately 114 million voters. That’s 3 percent. Put another way, President Bush captured 51 percent of the popular vote while Democratic Sen. John Kerry captured 48 percent. If you were running for class president of a class of 100 people (it’s a small school) and you got 51 votes while the other guy got 48, would you go around chanting about how you have a “mandate” to do whatever you want to the school? Well, you could – and you’d probably last three minutes before finding yourself upside down in the smelly and conveniently empty trash receptacle where you’d belong.

However, for reasons that I will keep to myself, I do think that it’s important that we go along, outwardly, with the idea of the Republican mandate, while actually believing otherwise. Don’t ask – just do it. Nod your head dumbly with any Republican idiot who yells about mandate but remember that they don’t have anywhere near a mandate.

BULLSHIT #2: The Democrats were too “far-left”, out-of-touch with “mainstream America”, derisive of “flyover country” (i.e. the South, Midwest, Rockies and Southwest), elitist, arrogant, etc. First of all, we were not “too far left”. The last far-left politician in this country was Henry Wallace, and there’s a reason you’ve probably never heard of him. (I actually like Wallace though.) Our nominee Senator John Kerry was solidly liberal, which is right where we ought to be. He lost for other reasons – which I won’t get into, since that isn’t the topic of this column – but not because he was too liberal. Don’t get me wrong; he wasn’t a moderate DLC-type Democrat; he was a solid-left liberal Democrat just like most of the Democrats in Congress.

Which brings me to the House and Senate races. Democrats lost seats in the Senate because, through some intervention of the Political Satan, five Democratic Senators in the South all decided to retire at once. Had five Republican Senators in the North done the same, we’d be talking about Senate Majority Leader Daschle (or Reid, as it turns out). As for the House, the Republicans made gains in four Texas districts heavily gerrymandered by Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.). DeLay’s heinous plan worked almost perfectly – only one of the five Texas Democrats targeted for slaughter, Chet Edwards, survived. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the fact that we didn’t make many gains in the House or Senate elsewhere, but the truth is that not many Democratic incumbents – with the notable exception of Senate Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.) – were ousted. Which shows that at least half this country hasn’t rejected us yet.

“Mainstream America” is an idealized vision of the United States held by the Republicans. In it, Hollywood doesn’t exist, profanity doesn’t exist, sex (other than between two consenting individuals of the same race and opposite gender) doesn’t exist, and unwanted pregnancy doesn’t exist. Notice that all the things I just listed are all cultural aspects. The Republicans, you see, are pushing a cultural vision that doesn’t seem to realize that the United States is the great country it is because we have cultural diversity. We have that Leave It To Beaver stuff, but we also have Hollywood, we have Wall Street, we have Castro District, we have Chinatowns, we have Museums of Modern Art, we have everything. And that’s what makes the USA great – that we have so many different people and different cultures and that we are all gathered in this one nation to share and mutually benefit from our different skills, interests, and experiences. The federal government ought to be actively promoting cultural diversity and expression, not suppressing it. That is what Democrats need to be arguing.

Republicans also charge that we Democrats are elitist, arrogant, and contemptuous of the Bush-carried red states – also referred to as “flyover country”. If there was a law, punishable by prison sentences, requiring everyone to provide evidence whenever making a political assertion, I’d expect half the Republican population to sitting behind bars right now. Where do they come up with this crap? Southerners have occupied both spots of the Democratic White House ticket in two consecutive elections – something that Republicans can’t lay claim to. (In fact, unless you count Texas as part of the South, the Republican Party has never elected a Southerner to the White House. Even if you do count Texas as part of the South, only three Republican Presidents – Eisenhower and the two Bushes – were from there, out of a total of eighteen Republican Presidents.) A Southerner, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), was our Vice Presidential nominee this year. A Texan (may or may not be “Southern”), Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, was the Vice Presidential nominee in 1988 as well, and the last three Democratic Presidents were all Southerners (again, this only works if Texas is part of the South; if not, it’s the last two). We already kiss and suck up to the South (and the rest of the red states) a helluva lot more than I’d personally like to see. The Republicans have no basis here.

BULLSHIT #3: The Republicans won because of “moral values”, which the Democrats lack. The exit polls’ winning issue was “moral values” but it was so loosely defined. After all, what is meant by “moral values”? That term could be used for just about any actual issue. Perhaps it referred to a set of cultural/religious issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, flag-burning, Ten Commandments, etc. After all, correct me if I’m mistaken but none of those issues were offered among the other choices. (I can imagine it now, some fool of a voter squawking, “Well, half my family died on 9/11 and the other half died in Iraq, but the issue I care most about is whether the Ten Commandment is in the courthouse!”) And the Christian conservatives definitely turned out in force on Election Day and helped deliver victory to the Republicans. But did the Republicans win because they are perceived to be more moral, or did they win because they were perceived to be more moral by the hordes of religious right-wingers? Or was it because the Bush image of being a strong and decisive leader (which he is not) and Kerry’s image as a weak flip-flopper (which he is not) prevailed? Any of these reasons is a possibility.

What isn’t true, however, is that Democrats have a deficit on morality. When Republicans talk up “moral values” they talk about installing religion in areas most public – schools, courthouses – and most private – bedrooms. The Democrats’ idea of morality is that while personal decisions are just that – personal – there are moral issues that the federal government ought to tackle: poverty, living conditions, food and housing, a secure retirement, humanitarian assistance abroad, and so on. However, we should couch these issues, along with the case for active federal government itself, in both moral and economic lights, saying that not only is it moral to have all of this, but it’s in our best economic interests as well. What we should not do is to refer to God or any other religious deity, text, or teaching, because that would 1.) Alienate those who do not follow religion 2.) Imply that morality can only come from faith, which is totally untrue. I saw an interview of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) with CNN’s Lou Dobbs and I thought it was so pathetic how she was dropping references to God, Genesis, etc. in her defense of Democratic values. Now, I really do admire Nancy Pelosi greatly, and she was definitely on the right track, but rather than bring up God and the Book of Genesis – which are specifically Christian – she should have couched it in more general moralistic rhetoric. Here’s an example for selling minimum wage: “We need to make sure that every working person in this country can have a decent income with which they can obtain the basic necessities and perhaps even a few amenities that every human being is entitled to.” See what I did? I put the issue in the dogmatic light that is morality (after all, morality is largely based on dogma) by saying that “every human being is entitled to _____ “, which is just my opinion as well as that of the overwhelming majority of Americans. At the same time, I made no references to any specific religion or deity and put it in a relatively secular tone. (Then, I would follow up with an economic/”public interest” argument: “Minimum wage would also allow workers to purchase and consume more vigorously, which would spur [or maintain] economic growth and benefit everyone in the community and the country.”) There’s no need to spout off about God everywhere we go – that just makes us look opportunistic. Indeed, after Pelosi’s spiel Lou Dobbs dryly asked her if religion-heavy rhetoric was to be expected from Democrats now that “moral values” had topped the voters’ concern list at the recent election. My fellow Democrats, let’s quit chasing this God or that and focus on using moral AND “public interest” arguments to sell our philosophy and ideas.

BULLSHIT #4: Democrats need to move to the center. I cannot tell you how dangerous this kind of advice is. Democrats have been moving slowly yet surely back to the left since the demise of Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, and it’s the right direction. Most Democrats, in Congress and elsewhere, are liberals, whether they admit to it or not. The Democratic Party is a liberal party, and for America’s sake we shouldn’t be ashamed of it; we should be fucking proud of it. We need to stop having this stupid debate of “left vs. center” because the debate’s already been decided – we’re at the left, we like it, America liked it when it came in the smiling form of President FDR, and we need to have those “happy days” again. If you didn’t like FDR, you probably don’t like the Democratic Party either, even if you count yourself part of it. Moving to the center would be a tacit capitulation to the conservative movement and would give the United States two Republican Parties, one conservative and one lunatic, when one Republican Party is already more than the country can afford (and I mean that literally – at least two recent Republican Presidents, including the current one, have colored the budget “Deficit Red”). It’s the kind of dangerous, self-destructive advice that only Republicans would give to Democrats.

Think about it. If your enemy offered you advice, would you take it? If you were stranded in the desert and had only a soggy piece of bread left to eat, and your bitter, mortal enemy suddenly appeared before you with a full banquet, would you go ahead and pig out? I sure as hell wouldn’t, because I’d know that every morsel in that feast would probably be laced with cyanide or arsenic or some other deadly substance. This is the Number One Rule for Democrats: Thou shalt not take advice from thine enemies. (I know, I just finished ranting about how Democrats should avoid religious rhetoric, but on something this compelling I felt like I had to do it.)

Right now, Republicans are saying a lot of things. Like most everything that comes out of a Republican’s mouth, they’re all full of shit. Which reminds me of another Democratic “Golden Rule” to go by: When in doubt, don’t trust a Republican. And by “trust” I don’t mean that you shouldn’t ask your Republican sister to fix your car engine because you think she’ll install a time bomb in it. I mean if you hear Republicans give some “facts” about their or their opponents’ positions, or if you hear Republicans offering Democrats some “advice”, take it down with a barrel of salt. I can safely say that 99 percent of the “advice” or “analysis” Republicans offer to or about Democrats are bullshit, or dangerous. Or dangerous bullshit. Which makes the Republicans dangerous bullshitters. So let’s not follow the dangerous bullshitters. Let’s set our own path to recovery and make sure that if a Democratic Golden Age ever comes again, it will be our beautiful product and not the twisted contraption of the other side.

Statement On 2004 United States National Elections

I’d like to say a few words about the 2004 USA national elections that have just transpired.

First of all, let there be no doubt that we Democrats lost and lost big time. In the contest for the White House, our nominee, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, received 48 percent of the popular vote to 51 percent for the Republican incumbent, President George W. Bush. Bush won in the Electoral College as well, 274-252, with 12 votes (from New Mexico and Iowa) remaining too close to call.

Democrats suffered even worst defeats in the U.S. Senate. Democratic Senate candidates were blown out in the South. Republicans picked up formerly Democratic seats in Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. They also hung on to vulnerable seats in Alaska, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, and defeated the Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota. All in all, the only competitive Senate race that we won was in Colorado. That, only with a victory in Illinois, brings the current Senate makeup to 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 1 Independent.

Though it should come as a surprise to no one, Democrats have lost seats in the U.S. House as well. The makeup will now be 230 Republicans, 202 Democrats, and 1 independent, with two races in Louisiana to be decided a month from now.

President Bush has not only kept his job but also the Republican Congress that has aided and enabled him to pass much of his harmful and conservative agenda over the last four years. I expect to see more of the same over the next four years as well. More budget-busting tax cuts, across-the-board gutting of budgets for domestic programs (something that Bush had already promised well in advance of this election), as well as “tax simplification” (that could only mean the replacement of the progressive income tax with something far more odious), partial privatization of Social Security, and perhaps new school vouchers in the wake of the deliberate failure of the No Child Left Behind program. We may even see new military adventures abroad once the situation in Iraq cools down, sometime in the indefinite future.

As for us Democrats, it is my belief that we must reject the centrist-minded approach advocated by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), an approach that has clearly done little for us in national elections. We must return to an explicit embrace of liberalism, combining the best parts of President Bill Clinton’s legacy – increased aid to fight crime, a commitment to deficit reduction, increased efficiency and quality of government services – with the traditional Democratic philosophy inherited from Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson: the use of an active federal government to promote the public interest of this country and the economic and social security of its citizens.

At the same time, we have much work to do in regards to de-stigmatizing liberalism in the American public culture, and uniting the Democratic Party across the country as the only way to stop a Republican Party that is now in firm control of all three branches of government.

The Senate still has 44 Democrats, enough to filibuster any extreme Republican initiatives. Our first priority, once a new Senate Leader has been chosen, will be to block any right-wing extremists President Bush may nominate to the Supreme Court. In order to win the public relations war over “obstructing” the President that we will face not only on judicial nominees but on all issues, we must take the initiative and “preempt” the Republicans by explaining our philosophy, our case, our issues to the American people.

Over the years to come we must be more aggressive in waging political war against not only in the halls of Congress but on the airwaves, on the ground, and in the hearts and minds of the American people. We must abandon the destructive policies of the DLC and embrace and defend the liberal roots that we share. We must do everything we can to inform the American people about who we are and where we want to go as a nation, and why they should support us.

Failure to do so will see repeats of this year’s elections in the years to come.

Note: Portions of the following column originally appeared in an anti-Bush column originally slated for publication in the June 2004 edition of El Estoque. However, due to an administrative “error”, the column mysteriously disappeared and never made it to publication. It appears here in heavily modified form.

My Thoughts On the 2004 Presidential Election…
Bush Sucks! Kerry Rules!

Tomorrow, the country will decide between the incumbent Republican President, George W. Bush, and his Democratic challenger, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. While this election is too close to call (though if I had to make a prediction, I’d give it to Bush), what isn’t close in my mind is the choice between four more years of Bush and four new years for Kerry. Voting for Bush would be the worst mistake of your life, and voting for Kerry will be something you will thank yourself for in the years to come. Why? Well there are actually some key issues where Bush has totally fouled up in such a way that induces bipartisan disgust. On those same issues, Kerry has a plan for success and renewed hope.

Let’s start off with tax policy. President Bush has based his entire economic credentials on massive tax cut packages he and his Republican Congress have passed over the last four years. Now, you might think paying less taxes is great – and it is! – but not under the way President Bush and his Republican allies have done it. Their tax cuts are geared largely to the rich; for example, the top 1 percent of taxpayers – those making $373 grand or more a year – pay a total of 20 percent of all federal taxes, yet they get roughly 38 percent of the tax cuts passed in 2001. And that’s only because Bush had to compromise with the Senate – if he had his way, the richest 1 percent would have gotten a whopping 43 percent! The worst part, though, is not that the tax cuts unfairly benefit those who don’t need that extra cash. It’s that the combined tax cut packages of 2001 and 2003 have almost single-handedly given us an estimated $500 billion deficit that not only drains the federal coffers of the money the government needs to attend to domestic needs, but also wastes our taxpayer money and virtually guarantees that somewhere down the road, the government will have to charge the mother of all tax hikes to pay off that debt. Mmm, I can smell my pocketbook melting already…and I’ll know who to thank when that blessed day comes.

Senator Kerry will actually work to reduce the deficit, which President Bush has (understandably) shown little concern for. On taxes he will do the exact opposite of Bush: He wants the bulk of tax cuts to be preserved and extended for middle- and low-income people, while rolling back the Bush tax cuts for those with annual incomes greater than $200 000 – back to where they were during the Clinton presidency. That same presidency, mind you, that saw unprecedented economic growth. That combination of tax increases and economic growth should have driven the last nail into the coffin of the Republican argument that tax increases lead to economic decline, but I guess that old skeleton has clawed its way out of the tomb, because Bush and his Republican allies keep using it on the campaign trail. Let’s put the myth to an end once and for all by electing John Kerry and showing the Republicans how it’s done.

Next, there’s the environment. Bush’s idea of “conservation” is embodied by lunacy such as the “Clear Skies Initiative” (which allows businesses to pollute even more – 68 percent more in nitric oxides and a whopping 225 percent in sulfur dioxide, according to the Sierra Club) and the “Healthy Forest Initiative” (which allows cutting down old trees so that they won’t spread forest fires. That’s the arboreal equivalent of killing off old people so they won’t spread the flu.). When it came time for Bush to take the axe to the federal budget, his blows have always fell hardest on the Environmental Protection Agency: in 2001 he proposed a 9.4 percent cut and, this year, a 7.2 percent cut. Even worse, he has pushed hard to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and if it were not for the plan’s repeated rejection in the Senate, a priceless national treasure – and the wildlife depending on it – would be devastated.

Kerry’s environmental record is one of strong advocacy for conservation and development of clean, alternative energy resources. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) awarded him with a rating of 90 out of 100, and he has not only fought to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from oil drilling, but has pushed forward a “20/20” plan to have 20 percent of the country’s energy sources be renewable, by 2020. A “clear vision for America”, indeed.

Do I even need to mention Iraq? The war was an unjustified preventive assault that broke nearly every rule of military conduct and international relations on the books. It was predicated largely on claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and the inclination to supply them to al-Qaeda – claims no one, least of all the Bush administration, could prove then or now. Yet even though Bush and everyone else knew this, he touted his phony claims as if they were a known truth, leading to a war that killed roughly 3 700 Iraqi civilians – as far as we know – and 800 American soldiers that would be alive and well today had we not go in. Then a year ago, he declared “Mission Accomplished” – only to see Iraq go to hell on a daily basis. Each passing day reveals new horrors from the Iraqi sands, whether it’s yet another ambush replete with explosions and gunfire, ever-changing reports on the financial costs, the Iraqis’ growing anger and resentment with their American “occupiers”, or the sight of an Iraqi prisoner being dragged on the floor by a leash.

While Kerry voted for the resolution to authorize war in Iraq, he did not do so for the actual tetralateral, second-resort, bungled-up war that he and the rest of us got. He expected the authority to be used to motivate the United Nations to return inspectors to Iraq, and only supported a war in the event of no other alternative and with the support of a broad (i.e. more than four countries) international coalition. So those who accuse Kerry of “flip-flopping” – and they number in the hundreds and include Bush and Cheney themselves – are either ignorant of Kerry’s position or aware of it but seek to manipulate and distort it. In other words, Bush and Cheney are either stupid, or dishonest, or both. And that can be said for any issue.

I could only pick three of the biggest issues to talk about, but you get the point: President Bush has screwed up on the job. Why would we give this guy another four years? That would be another four years to ravage the nation, the environment, and quite possibly the world. Let’s instead place the Oval Office in the care of John Kerry, who will bring back Clintonian prosperity at home and Kennedy-esque respect abroad.